Kaupo Meiel: Pedal and prices to the metal

Kaupo Meiel.
Kaupo Meiel. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Entrepreneurial people in the accommodation, catering or souvenir business in Southern Estonia are thinking of ways to benefit from Rally Estonia in September and have every right, Kaupo Meiel writes in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

The Rally Estonia 2020 to take place in early September is the first round of the FIA World Rally Championship to be run in Estonia and a grand event that is expected to yield more than just a good spectacle. Heads of southern municipalities have placed great hopes on the event the association of which with rallying as a sport is rather indirect.

Kanepi Municipality Mayor Piret Rammul told ERR back when the rally coming to Estonia had just been confirmed that "one does not have to be a rally fan to understand that an event such as this greatly benefits the area. Direct benefits could be created for local small producers, businesses and otherwise entrepreneurial people, whether through sales or accommodation. Television coverage that comes with a WRC event will go beyond Kanepi Municipality and the tiny village of Maaritsa to benefit the whole of Estonia."

Expectations for revenue from a major event are usually quite similar, irrespective of whether the event in question is a rally, rock concert, electronic dance music orgy or the world exhibition of the most beautiful goats. The main thing is for the event to attract hundreds of fans from far and wide.

It could also be a niche event, which I suppose rallying or cross-country skiing, for example, could be described as. But there are niches that unite an incredible number of people who are directly tied to it or follow as fans.

Pragmatic citizens active in the service sector, such as accommodation, catering or the souvenir business, immediately start thinking of ways to benefit from the major event.

The media has in recent days covered Southern Estonian accommodation providers who do not regard it as excessive to charge rally fans €3,000, €4,000 or even €8,000 for a few nights' stay. It is to be believed that heads of bars and restaurants are weighing whether to hike the prices of beer and food by 10 percent or tenfold for the duration of the rally.

I'm sure handicraft and organic shops are holding meetings where the owner says to the clerk: "Listen, we should probably hike prices for the rally too." While the modest sales assistant then suggests that folksy organic souvenir stuff is already insanely expensive, the owner is not disheartened and simply replies: "It's always possible to go higher."

Now, accommodation providers and other active people charging colossal prices during the rally are criticized for being oh so greedy. That is completely unnecessary and unfounded criticism.

Vacationing in Estonia has always been expensive. It is possible to find a hotel with more than a few stars in downtown Rome a night in which costs considerably less than it does in a hostel attached to an Estonian sports base. The first offers a view of an ancient city, while the second of socks hung up to dry – the price difference meanwhile is €30. So it goes.

A price hike to mark the rally is hardly extraordinary. The Weekend Festival in Pärnu saw the coastal dwellers take dance fans to the cleaners. It is not greed but rather enterprising spirit, while a person who fails to pick up money lying on the ground can be described as downright backwards.

Supply and demand will decide matters. This fact was also hinted at by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas who said, when commenting on high accommodation prices: "I'm glad to be living in a free Estonia since 1991 – a democratic country where market economy logic applies, which I find is brilliant."

In order to justify charging hefty prices, it could also be asked whether we want poor people to come to Estonia. No, we have enough of those as it is. Let us instead host wealthy tourists who will be about as poor as we are by the time they return home, with the world gaining a little in the way of balance.

A measure of greed is part of the human condition and should not be vilified as the latter sounds a lot like another part of human nature. It sounds like jealousy.

Therefore, and without further ado – pedal and prices to the metal!


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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